Between the Lines

With columnist Anna Marie Lux.

A joyful sound: New Janesville choir offers youth skills, confidence

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Anna Marie Lux
Saturday, December 9, 2017

JANESVILLE—The Rev. Earl Sias listened intently as the sound of young voices rang out in a moving rendition of “Silent Night” at All Saints Anglican Catholic Church.

“There's something about the voices of children that melt my heart,” Sias said. “They sound like angels.”

The handful of children who make up Janesville's newest youth choir might not be angels.

But the Academy Singers youth chorus is determined to make a good impression when it debuts in public this month at a Christmas program.

The group's focus is to develop talent, skills and confidence, especially among children living in the Fourth Ward, where the church is located.

All third- through sixth-grade students citywide are welcome.

“There may be home-schooled children who are interested,” Sias said. “We are actively looking for new members.”

He is aware of other youth choirs in Janesville.

“But this one is free, and there are no tryouts,” Sias said.

The Anglican church on Academy Street offers a rehearsal site, but children do not need to be members.

Sias wants the choir to do more than nourish young talent during after-school hours. He and the congregation want to make sure children are fed.

“Some have not eaten since school lunch,” he said, “so we offer hearty and healthy food.”

To cover costs, the church has sought private donations and support from community businesses, the Salvation Army, the Citywide Clergy Prayer Group and the Fourth Ward Committee.

Adult volunteers and sponsors can join the Friends of Academy Singers to help at rehearsals, conduct fundraising activities and develop grant proposals to sustain and expand the group, Sias said.

Recently, the church received a grant from the Special Opportunities Fund to support the choir. The fund is a component of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin.

Church member Larry Kenney suggested starting the chorus.

“He was involved in organizing a youth choir in another city,” Sias explained.

The fledgling group started meeting in late October. In the first three weeks of rehearsals, eight children joined.

“I love to sing,” said Jordyn Viney, 10, just before practice on a recent Wednesday afternoon.

She and others in the choir expressed excitement about the upcoming program and Christmas caroling.

They sat in chairs in front of Lori Dissmore, who played the piano as they practiced traditional carols.

She and Jocelyn Kopac are the choir's musical directors.

“I love children,” Dissmore said, explaining why she volunteered to work with the young singers. “I also love music.”

Sias looks forward to more children joining the angelic voices.

“We want to produce a generation that can build a good community,” Sias said. “We have a real commitment to succeed.”

Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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